Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and safety and sufficiency of the blood supply
There has been an outbreak of a novel (new) coronavirus (referred to as SARS-CoV-2) that has been associated with cases of severe respiratory illness such as pneumonia. Symptoms of this disease (known as COVID-2019) include fever, malaise, dry cough, sore throat and shortness of breath. There is evidence of person-to-person transmission. On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization upgraded the status of the COVID-19 outbreak from epidemic to pandemic.
We have assessed the blood safety risk as low and expect it to remain low. Internationally, other blood services have independently and unanimously arrived at the same conclusion.
There are no inventory shortages or restrictions outside the normal day-to-day fluctuations at this point in time. We appreciate your ongoing focus on appropriate usage of blood and blood products within your organisation, especially O-negative red cells, and would be grateful if you would support the need for blood donation through your normal organisational communication channels.
Over the last few weeks donor appointment cancellation rates are trending higher than seasonal levels and with the cold and flu season approaching and potentially increased demand as some states bring forward elective surgery lists, we are concerned that we may see increased pressure on blood supplies. On 17 March 2020 we progressed a media call out for those who are able to become blood donors over the coming weeks and for those who are already blood donors to make and keep an appointment to give blood. The response to date has been pleasing.
We are working closely with the National Blood Authority and have comprehensive Business Continuity plans in place for our entire collection, production and supply chain.
Blood safety risk assessment
Respiratory viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2, such are SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, are not known to be transfusion-transmissible. There has only been detection of the virus in the blood of patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection when they are unwell, usually critically ill; such individuals would not be eligible to donate blood. Our strict screening processes means we do not allow people who are unwell to donate blood and, to reduce the number of people coming into contact with the virus, we are also asking donors who have returned from overseas and those who have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus to wait 28 days before giving blood. Our donor centres are safe places to visit and we will take all necessary steps to ensure that remains the case.
The clinical utility of convalescent plasma is a key topic on our international medical blood service benchmarking calls. At this stage, a small number of the international blood services are actively progressing the collection of convalescent plasma. We are exploring with government whether this option should be pursued within Australia.
Our Donor and Product Safety team are monitoring the situation on a daily basis and we are in regular contact with colleagues from international blood services.
We will update this website regularly as the pandemic evolves.
Date: 18 March 2020